Middlesex Village Trading Company Doglock Pistol
A hands-on review by Gordon Frye
Being a long-time aficionado of 16th and 17th Century firearms, I was excited to discover that various vendors were offering a reproduction doglock pistol representative of the period 1615-1650. I ordered one of the pistols offered by Middlesex Village Trading Company.
This pistol, based on one in the Henry Krank Collection, is an example of a rather pedestrian type used by English cavalrymen during the first half of the 17th Century, primarily during the English Civil War of 1642-1650. These pistols were generally issued in pairs to cavalrymen, who carried them in holsters (or "cases") at the pommel of their saddles, butt-forward and easily accessible to the rider. They were carried butt-forward because it is much easier to draw long-barreled pistols by bending your elbow while drawing them rather than trying to draw them straight back with the thumb upwards. The long barrels gave these pistols quite a bit of muzzle velocity, which, combined with the large bore, made them deadly weapons in the close combat of the cavalry melee. Examples of the doglock are frequently found in archaeological digs in early colonial sites in Virginia and New England, showing that the type was popular in both musket and pistol forms.
Officially referred to as an "English lock" by most collectors and historians, it represents a step forward from the snaphaunce lock of the late 16th Century because it combines the hammer (most modern shooters refer to it as the frizzen) and the pan-cover, thus simplifying the lock and at the same time increasing its reliability. However, this innovation compromised safety because the hammer could no longer be swung away from the pan to disable the piece for safe carrying. In response to this, the dog was added as a safety feature. This piece, which engages the base of the cock and prevents it from moving forward, is so named because its action is reminiscent of a dog latching onto someone's heel. The dog quite effectively prevented the piece from literally "going off half-cocked". Since the saying has become proverbial in the English language, it suffices to note that it must have been a fairly common experience with those guns not provided with such a manual safety (the "French Lock" from which most 18th century flintlocks derive had an interior safety which wasn't quite up to the standards of the dog, but was a somewhat more efficient design overall). Apart from the dog, the lock's form is very much that of the earlier snaphaunce, with its swan-necked cock, external sear working upon it laterally, and buffer used to stop the forward motion of the cock in its fall. So it's only a slight improvement on the snaphaunce, retaining much of the archaic look that I appreciate.
The barrel of the Middlesex Village Trading Company pistol is made (according to the vendors) from seamless steel tubing and a threaded breech-plug. It's 16" long, of approximately 20-bore (.62") which might be considered a tad large, as the English service pistols of the 17th and 18th Centuries, for the most part, were slightly smaller, with .56" (approximately 28-bore) being standard. However, John Cruso, in his Militarie Exercises for the Cavall'rie (1632), wrote, "He must have two cases with good firelocks [Wheellocks], pistols hanging at his saddle, having the barrel of 18 inches long, and the bore of 20 bullets to the pound (or 24 rowling in)." (Ch. XXIII, Of the Arming of the Cuirassier: pp. 29-30)
Thus our present example, though of flint ignition rather than Wheellock, is of the proper bore, but two inches short. But I think it will pass muster nevertheless!
The touch-hole is exactly where it is supposed to be: not at the bottom of the pan, but centered for a good quick ignition. The finish of the barrel both inside and out is quite nice, and it even comes with reproduction proof marks for both England and Ireland!
The stock is made of teak wood, which is slightly heavier than walnut, and redder, but still a decent hardwood almost resembling cherry.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created in India and imported by Middlesex Village Trading Company.
Firing this pistol is quite simple. Although all the manuals of the period state that it is appropriate to prime the pan first, even with this nice positive safety in place I thought it prudent to not test Providence, and proceeded to load prior to priming. I topped off a fairly light charge of 40 grains of ffg powder with a .600 lead round ball. The fit was a close one, but I would recommend using wadding above the ball anyway if the pistol were to be carried in a saddle holster at all as the ball still had some room to roll. The suggested load was to use a .58 caliber ball, which would give quite a bit of blow-by and significantly reduce the velocity, pressure and recoil. I tried both loads. The .600" ball gives a satisfying "boom" and recoil, while the .570" (definitely "rowling in"!) was somewhat less satisfying both in regards to noise and recoil. Both balls went careening off into my pasture though, resulting in a nice wet "plop" when they hit. I didn't try it for accuracy, as the recommended distance for firing these pistols in combat was only 15 feet. I figured that it would have to be a seriously bent barrel to miss at that range, and besides, I didn't want to start any fires by shooting at paper at that distance! So I'll make the assumption that it will in fact hit its target at the intended range.
Fit and Finish
This particular example was made in India and marketed in the US through Middlesex Village Trading Company and in Canada by both The Discriminating General and Loyalist Arms. It is a serviceably made pistol, certainly no work of art but sturdy, just like the originals of its kind. Compared to the graceful French pistols of 1600 or 1800 this is a club, as the English had yet to acquire either the taste or the ability to manufacture such arms yet. But this is a soldier's weapon, not something designed for looks, and its chunky heft gives some indication of its effectiveness.
The dog is fitted to the rear of the lockplate, and positively engages the tail of the cock. Although there actually is an internal safety catch of sorts on the tumbler, the dog provides a very positive restraint on any forward motion of the cock. It does, however, require a manual release since simply drawing back the cock may result in the dog not moving back far enough, remaining in place to halt the cock when you are actually trying to fire the pistol. Unfortunately, the stock wasn't cut away sufficiently for the easy movement of the dog, as it left some scores in the stock after being both engaged and disengaged.
All in all, I am quite pleased with this piece by Middlesex Village Trading Company. It isn't any work of art, but it isn't intended to be. It is a soldier's weaponjust the thing for a Targeteer at Jamestown, or an Ironsides at Marston Moor. The minor shortcoming of the poorly fitted pan-cover was solved in a few minutes with a file, and the resulting piece works perfectly. For an investment of some $300 US, it's a serviceable and affordable firearm for those who wish to do either early 17th Century reenacting, or simply want to add a unique and historically important piece of weaponry to their collection.
About the Author
Gordon Frye has had a deep interest in history and weapons of all sorts from early childhood, earning a Master of Arts degree in Western History in 1982. He has worked as an assistant Reenactor Coordinator for Cavalry for such historical films as Ride with the Devil and The Patriot, having taken part in a host of others. His present passion is Renaissance Cavalry, and is presently living in the Puget Sound area of Washington with his wife, two horses, three chickens and five cats.
Photographer: Nancy Frye